Governments must heed the lessons of COVID-19 and the disproportionate impact for people with dementia

A new report by ADI calls on world governments to ensure that dementia remains a priority during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

World governments are failing to support the needs of millions of people living with dementia according to a new report out today from Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI).

Three years after the adoption of the World Health Organization (WHO)’s Global action plan on the public health response to dementia 2017-2025, the primary target to have 146 of the 194 Member States develop a national response plan to dementia, is falling further behind.

Globally only 31 national plans exist, including just 27 WHO Member States, while up to 30 are in development. In the last three years only five countries (Canada, Chile, Spain, Iceland and Qatar) have created plans, meaning at the current rate the 2025 target will not be reached.

The report highlights the challenges as well as opportunities presented by the global COVID-19 pandemic, and the intersections between dementia and COVID-19. The novel coronavirus’s higher mortality rate in those over 65, in those with underlying conditions including dementia, and among care facility residents, has highlighted the need for improved preparedness and to provide better quality dementia services across the continuum of care: through prevention, diagnosis, post-diagnostic support, to end of life care. This vulnerable group of people are so often forgotten and are prone to the social isolation that the whole world is now forced to experience.

“COVID-19 has not only highlighted the scale of the challenges faced by the global dementia community; it has exacerbated the individual challenges of the millions of people living with dementia. World governments must work proactively now not only to prepare for the growing numbers of people developing dementia but to safeguard against the disproportionate impact that such pandemics have on the dementia community,” said Paola Barbarino, Chief Executive of ADI.

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that, at the scale we are talking about – over 50 million people with dementia globally – only governments can find solutions. But three years on from the commitment made by 194 countries at the World Health Assembly, the pace of progress is still far too slow.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted on post diagnostic support services globally and we are greatly concerned that it will impact on diagnostic pathways and disrupt research and clinical trials. It has highlighted huge cracks in health and social care systems, and in particular mental health services that are crucial for people living with dementia and their carers.”

“It is encouraging to see progress and we commend the countries who have recently launched national plans, those who are making steps to developing them, and those who are continuing to implement, fund, and monitor national plans. Countries like China, Germany and India continue to develop their plans during this period and the government in Iceland have shown a remarkable commitment to launch their plan during the pandemic. But we need a lot more governments to make commitments and to sustain those commitments for the long-haul.”

I cannot reiterate more strongly that national dementia plans are essential in achieving the tangible actions required to improve the lives of people with dementia, their families and carers.

“In my lifetime I have learnt that memory of epochal events is short, but I think people will be remembering this for a longer time than usual. And if not, we are here to make sure these memories won’t be forgotten because we need now more than ever to make sure we can use this example in our future advocacy. This must never happen again.”

The recommendations come from a report by ADI, From plan to impact III: Maintaining dementia as a priority in unprecedented times, which was released during a special Virtual Side Event and Report Launch on 25 June.

In 2017, the WHO adopted the Global action plan on the public health response to dementia 2017-2025 at the 70th World Health Assembly. The first target in the Global action plan is for 75 per cent of WHO’s 194 Member States to have developed or updated national policies, strategies, plans or frameworks for dementia by 2025.

ADI calls on all governments to heed the lessons of the novel coronavirus outbreak and to dedicate a minimum of 1 per cent of the societal cost of dementia to research.

Read more related content

WHO Global Action Plan on dementia

The global plan aims to improve the lives of people with dementia, their families and the people who care for them, while decreasing the impact of dementia on communities and countries. Read More

From Plan to Impact III

From Plan to Impact III

This is the third From Plan to Impact report. It provides a critical update on the progress towards the World Health Organization (WHO)'s Global action plan on the public health response to dementia 2017-2025. Read More